In 2009, Sharita Jackson was let go from her job as administrative assistant when the company she worked for folded. She had been job-hunting with no success ever since. Her luck recently changed.
"When this opportunity came along, I was a little skeptical at first because I wasn't sure if it was going to be another dead end or not, but everything happened so fast," Jackson said.
Jackson was hired as a call center worker. She's among the 113 people SeatonCorp has committed to hire through a non-profit called Skills for Chicagoland's Future. The staffing company's CEO says Jackson is the kind of employee his company's in-house recruiting efforts may have missed.
"The folks that we typically recruit, the ones that tend to go to the top of the funnel, are the ones that are already working. So what we've done is we've carved out a specific number of positions that are targeted to the program," Patrick Beharelle, CEO, SeatonCorp, said.
"There certainly are biases and stigmas that occasionally somebody may hold against the unemployed and I think through our work we're actually demonstrating to them and showing them that a number of these unemployed are hungry, eager, ready to get back to work, with transferable skills," Marie Trzupek Lynch, president, Skills for Chicagolands' Future, skillsforchicagolandsfuture.com.
Lynch says the longer a person is unemployed the harder it can be to get hired. This organization's approach is to first identify businesses that have jobs available and are willing to train then to find a match among the unemployed.
"There's actually 200,000 job postings in the last quarter in Cook County and there's 250,000 unemployed. So we know that we have a lot of unemployed that aren't a match necessarily for those jobs. Our conversations with employers is that they do have positions. They actually are hiring. They are having difficulty finding the right folks," Lynch said.
Other cities are watching this initiative to use as a possible model for getting people back to work. Penny Pritzker, who co-founded a national organization, is now leading the Chicago effort.
"I hope we're a victim of our success. In other words, the more success we have the more businesses will realize this is a great way to find new employees and it's a great way for the unemployed to figure this is a great way I can get skills and get a job," Pritzker said.
United Airlines is the latest company to commit to hire unemployed workers through Skills for Chicagoland's Future. To be considered for the program, residents need to have applied for unemployment benefits since January 2008. There is no cost to sign up. Click Here to apply.